Iowa court rules for gay marriage, Vermont Legislature overrides veto, and marriage equality bills continue to advance in other states
Iowa? When I think of any state that might grant same-sex couples the same rights as every other American couple, I am hard-pressed to put Iowa in my list of "Top Ten" most likely states.
But there it is, right alongside Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Now before you go grab the next jet to Des Moines, remember it’s a State Supreme Court ruling, and as such can be overturned by an amendment to the Iowa Constitution.
That is the bad news, the good news is that process would take a while. The really good news was how the court worded their opinion:
"State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly expressed through its legislation." The court went on to say, "This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state."
The justices understood that the whole gay marriage opposition is something that is driven by religious beliefs.
Just ask folks in California who supported Proposition 8, and you will get a diatribe of religious dogma and Bible quotes.
Contrary to what the right wing fringe would like you to believe, the United States of America is not a "Christian" nation. When it comes to legal rights, the Bible is not part of the equation.
Then on the heels of the Iowa decision comes news that the Vermont Legislature actually voted to grant the right of same-sex couples to marry — and even had enough votes to override the veto of the state’s governor, Jim Douglas.
That is a really major victory in any book, especially considering that it was done without any court ruling at all.
So what do these victories really mean? Hard to say, but when they are combined with a ruling by the Washington, D.C. Council to recognize same-sex unions from other states it’s starting to look like momentum.
The New Hampshire House has already passed a same-sex marriage bill that is now moving to the state Senate. New Jersey, where same-sex civil unions are already law, and Maine are debating the issue of granting real marriage rights to gays and lesbians.
And latest word is Gov. Paterson of New York is re-introducing legislation that will legalize gay marriage in that state as well.
The whole thing is starting to take on a life of its own.
Though I have been pretty adamant in my belief that we should be working for full civil rights before worrying about marriage, I have to say I am getting shpilkes (that’s Yiddish for goose bumps). Having a law that recognizes the union between partners of the same sex goes a long way toward breaking down all the barriers to equality.
Considering that the hastily passed "Defense of Marriage" laws in many states are being challenged in the courts and the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act" is also under scrutiny, we may look back at the past few days as a turning point.
If more of the state courts take an honest look at the laws defining marriage as a union between "one man and one woman" as an expression of a religious ideology, they might follow Iowa’s suit and toss them out.
Still, I have to wonder how much "Sturm und Drang" the right wing zealots will cause in the wake of these changes.
As you know, they really don’t like anything that challenges their narrow set of beliefs. In fact they really don’t like change at all.
My partner often reminds me of the similarities between the conservatives and our cats: As long as everything remains stable and the food is there every day, the cat box clean and fresh water in ample supply, they are content. Throw them a curve and they go from gentle little fur balls to persnickety, moody and sometimes downright irritable.
As our victories mount, we still need to be on the watch for the claws of right. They, like the furry little conservatives in my house, can turn on a dime.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeon diary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 10, 2009.